Offering condolences to a friend or family member who’s lost a loved one can be challenging for plenty of understandable reasons. Finding the right words to say in these circumstances is a difficulty many struggle to overcome.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of a Husband
- Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of a Wife
- Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of a Mother
- Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of a Father
- Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of a Child
- Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of a Friend
- Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of a Grandparent
- Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of an Aunt or Uncle
- Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of a Sibling
- Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of an Infant
- Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of a Coworker
Perhaps you can relate. If so, remember that you don’t need to rely solely on your own words to express your feelings when comforting someone mourning a loss. You can use the words of others to help you say what you mean to.
One way to do so is to send a card, email, or other such message with a sympathy poem. This guide offers numerous options to consider. Each entry also includes a few lines from the poem to help you better determine if it’s one you might decide to use.
Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of a Husband
Losing a husband can feel like losing a part of yourself. The death of a partner or spouse deprives a person of their best friend with whom they shared a unique bond.
A sympathy poem for the loss of a husband can’t replace this bond, but it can potentially show a friend or loved one the eventual path to peace. Poems you might share with someone who has lost a husband include the following:
1. ‘Death is Nothing at All’ by Harry Scott-Holland
A husband isn’t just a romantic partner. They can be a source of strength, offering a spouse comfort when they face any of life’s numerous difficulties. Someone who recently lost a husband might find comfort in this poem, which describes a lost loved one explaining that their death was not a true ending of existence, but simply a transition into the next stage of existence.
“Death is nothing at all. / It does not count. / I have only slipped away into the next room. / Nothing has happened. / Everything remains exactly as it was. / I am I, and you are you, / and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. / Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.”
2. ‘Life is But a Dream’ by Paul Hayward
Many hopeful sympathy poems suggest that in our dreams we can still see those we have loved even after their deaths. This poem suggests the opposite. Its speaker is a lost loved one who explains to someone still living in this mortal world that what we call “life” is the dream, and the true reality is the world where we reunite with our lost family members, friends, and lovers for eternity.
“I am lying next to you, awake now while you sleep, / For death has just released me, yet in your dream you weep. / If only you could see me, so peaceful and serene, / But you must live a little more and carry on the dream, / A dream from which one day you'll wake and see me by your side, / And know for sure that I'm still here and that I never ‘died.’”
Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of a Wife
The pain of losing a wife is equal to the pain of losing a husband. Once more, even if poetry can’t take the place of strong romantic love, these poems can help you offer condolences when you can’t find the right words to do so:
3. ‘She is Gone’ by David Harkins
This poem’s title is as blunt as its message. Yes, when someone dies, they are gone. Even if a mourner believes in an eternal afterlife, it can still be difficult for them to not feel a lost loved one is no longer with them.
However, if they are willing to accept these feelings, they can focus on being grateful for the time they had with their loved one instead of regretting that the time they shared together has ended.
“You can shed tears that she is gone, / or you can smile because she has lived. / You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back, / or you can open your eyes and see all she's left. / Your heart can be empty because you can't see her, / or you can be full of the love you shared.”
4. ‘My Soulmate’ by John P. Read
The emotions someone may experience after the passing of a spouse are often complex. This poem illustrates the thoughts and feelings of a man who struggles with his religious faith after losing his wife, while also finding a new faith in the belief that the love he and his wife shared is eternal.
“Summer days seem much shorter. / Dark nights just linger on. / Dreams turn into nightmares / When the one you love has gone. / But real love never fades. / It still burns like the sun. / Although they're far away, / Those memories go on and on.”
Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of a Mother
A mother can be a source of love and guidance that helps a child (even an adult child) cope with life’s greatest challenges. As such, losing a mother is a challenge unlike any other. Help someone overcome this pain by offering sympathy in the form of one of these poems:
5. ‘Gone From My Sight’ by Henry Van Dyke
This gentle poem compares a lost female loved one (possibly a mother) to a strong ship sailing from one shore to the next. The fact that the poem’s subject can no longer see the ship does not mean it no longer exists.
“Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast, / hull and spar as she was when she left my side. / And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port. / Her diminished size is in me – not in her.”
6. ‘The courage that my mother had’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Children often feel their best qualities come from their mothers. As this poem describes, when a mother dies, a child might feel as though such a quality that would have helped them cope with this loss is one they need more than ever.
“Oh, if instead she’d left to me / The thing she took into the grave!— / That courage like a rock, which she / Has no more need of, and I have.”
Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of a Father
A father may be a role model, teacher, provider, friend, and so much more. There are no proper words to explain how difficult it can be to lose a person who served such roles. If you know a friend or relative mourning a father’s death, these sympathy poems may help you support them:
7. ‘Dance With My Father’ by Luther Vandross and Richard Marx
Luther Vandross co-wrote this song with Richard Marx after his father’s passing. It’s one of many examples that demonstrate how song lyrics can also serve as poems.
“If I could get another chance / Another walk, another dance with him / I'd play a song that would never ever end / How I'd love, love, love to dance with my father again.”
8. ‘Kissing My Father’ by Joseph O. Legaspi
When someone is mourning the loss of a father (or any beloved family member), it may be difficult for them to fully accept the reality of their passing right away. This sympathy poem might tell someone who has lost a father but is struggling to come to terms with this loss that others out there understand what they are feeling.
“While my mother places her hand warm on the cradle / of my back, where I bend to fit into my body. / Her burning eyes speak, Do it for me, they / urge, Kiss your father goodbye. / I refuse.”
Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of a Child
The loss of a child is among the most devastating experiences anyone can endure. While no sympathy poem will fully restore a parent’s sense of hope and faith after a seemingly meaningless tragedy, the following may provide at least some peace:
9. ‘The Cord’ by Amy Merrick
If social media posts about this poem are accurate, Amy Merrick wrote it after the unexpected passing of her 14-year-old daughter. The title of the poem refers to an “invisible cord” that ensures the bond a mother has with her child never breaks even after their child’s death.
“We are connected, / My child and I, by / An invisible cord / Not seen by the eye. / It's not like the cord / That connects us 'til birth / This cord can't be seen / By any on Earth. / This cord does its work / Right from the start. / It binds us together / Attached to my heart.”
10. ‘Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep’ by Mary Elizabeth Frye
This poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye is actually one version of many similar poems from this time period. Although it can function as a sympathy poem after virtually any loss, it offers a message of hope that may particularly comfort those who have lost a child by suggesting that someone who has died in our mortal world still lives elsewhere.
“Do not stand at my grave and cry; / I am not there. / I did not die.”
11. ‘Death, be not proud’ by John Donne
This poem’s message is similar to that of the previous entry. John Donne characterizes death itself as some type of being that wants us to fear it. According to the poem, we shouldn’t, though, because eternal life renders death powerless in the end.
“One short sleep past, we wake eternally / And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”
Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of a Friend
Family members play critical roles in our lives, but in the vast majority of circumstances, they aren’t people with whom we choose to have relationships. That’s what makes close friendships special. A good friend is someone you choose. When a friend passes, a sympathy poem like one of the following can potentially help a mourner cope:
12. ‘Under the Harvest Moon’ by Carl Sandburg
Sandburg describes both death and love as visitors who return as old friends whom we should not fear. This is a poem that can promote healing after the death of a close companion.
“Under the harvest moon, / When the soft silver / Drips shimmering / Over the garden nights, / Death, the gray mocker, / Comes and whispers to you / As a beautiful friend / Who remembers.”
13. ‘Troubled Heart’ by Ron Tranmer
It’s always important to exercise your judgment when deciding whether to share a particular sympathy poem with a particular individual. You must consider whether the poem’s message and subject matter will offer peace or whether it may upset someone in mourning.
For instance, this poem, which directly addresses the confusion and guilt one may feel after a friend takes their own life, while also describing how a loving god welcomes all souls regardless of how they passed, might not be ideal for everyone. However, some people may appreciate reading a poem that clearly and unflinchingly describes their conflicting feelings of remorse and optimism.
“I’m left with guilt and sorrow, / and confusion as to why / you didn’t tell me of your pain / and felt you had to die. / Every soul is precious / in the eyes of God above. / He will heal your troubled heart / with His never ending love.”
14. ‘One Art’ by Elizabeth Bishop
Like many of the sympathy poems here, this poem doesn’t directly refer to the loss of a specific individual. That said, it may serve best as a poem to share with an elderly friend or family member who has recently lost a friend after having lost several others already.
It’s not uncommon for those who have reached an old age to have experienced many losses over the years. This poem may thus resonate with an older person, as it describes how a person can lose so many friends, family members, and even memories that losing becomes almost a form of art for them.
“Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture / I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident / the art of losing’s not too hard to master / though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.”
Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of a Grandparent
Few loves are as pure as the love a devoted grandparent has for their grandchildren. To comfort someone you know who has recently lost a grandparent, consider expressing yourself via one of these poems:
15. ‘When Great Trees Fall’ by Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou uses the metaphor of a large tree falling in a forest to explore the way the death of someone who lived a long and noble life can put our own lives into perspective. Anyone who has lost an elderly family member whom they felt strong admiration for can likely understand such feelings.
“And when great souls die, / after a period peace blooms, / slowly and always / irregularly. Spaces fill / with a kind of / soothing electric vibration. / Our senses, restored, never / to be the same, whisper to us. / They existed. They existed. / We can be. Be and be / better. For they existed.”
16. ‘Grandpa, I Miss You’ by Amanda Dwyer
Instead of masking their emotions with metaphor, symbolism, and complex language, Amanda Dwyer (who was presumably young when she wrote this poem) describes in clear and honest terms the way a child may feel after losing a grandparent. Naturally, this is a sympathy poem you might share with a younger family member coping with this type of loss for what may be the first time in their life.
“I just want to tell you / That you’re always in my heart. / Even though I still cry, / I know we’re not apart.”
17. ‘Dirge Without Music’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Some people assume that losing a grandparent should not be as painful an experience as losing a younger relative or friend. Early in life, most of us learn that the older someone is, the closer they may be to death. Thus, many feel that others expect them to “put on a brave face” when a grandparent dies.
This poem rejects the idea of pretending all is well after the passing of any loved one. Its reference to the dead being “the wise and lovely” makes it an ideal sympathy poem after the death of a grandparent, as many consider older people to possess wisdom that naturally comes with age.
“Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave / Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind; / Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave. / I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.”
Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of an Aunt or Uncle
Aunts and uncles often provide the fun, laughs, and even guidance of mothers and fathers, without necessarily having to also serve as disciplinarians (unless they have taken on the responsibility of parenting a child). The result can be a remarkably enriching and pleasant relationship. These poems can help someone find peace after death ends that relationship:
18. ‘Turn Again to Life’ by Mary Hall
Aunts and uncles may deliver “no-nonsense” advice in a manner that other relatives rarely do. Unlike parents or grandparents, they often don’t get to spend enough time with a child to soften their wisdom or elaborate much on it.
This is why “Turn Again to Life” is an ideal sympathy poem for someone mourning the loss of an aunt or uncle. The poem’s speaker is very direct when telling the reader that wasting time on excessive mourning is pointless when the deceased would much prefer that they spend their time enjoying life.
“If I should die, and leave you here a while, / Be not like others sore undone, / who keep long vigils by the silent dust and weep. / For my sake, turn again to life, and smile, / Nerving thy heart, and trembling hand to do / Something to comfort weaker hearts than thine, / Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine, / And I, perchance, may therein comfort you!”
19. ‘The Letter’ by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
When someone loses a very close family member, such as a sibling or parent, the overwhelming feeling they may experience is often one of sadness or grief. Because the relationship someone has with an aunt or uncle may not be quite as close, when such a person dies, a nephew or niece may also be more aware of another feeling that isn’t always noticeable. The feeling that losing someone close is not only a sad experience, but a strange one.
Trying to understand how someone can be in your life one moment and gone forever the next is no easy task. This poem addresses that, making it a selection to consider for someone who has recently said goodbye to an aunt or uncle.
“How strange it seemed! His living voice / Was speaking from the page / Those courteous phrases, tersely choice, / Light-hearted, witty, sage. / I wondered what it was that died! / The man himself was here, / His modesty, his scholar's pride, / His soul serene and clear.”
Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of a Sibling
A sibling is someone who may know you better than anyone else. This is true whether they’re a best friend, a frequent rival (as even loving siblings can sometimes be!), or anything in between.
Regardless, losing a sibling is essentially the same as losing the closest friend one can have. Show someone who has lost a brother or sister they still have friends who care for them with one of these sympathy poems:
20. ‘One Sister have I in our house’ by Emily Dickinson
As usual, Emily Dickinson uses seemingly complex and indecipherable language and imagery to touch on a powerful human emotion in this poem.
“And still her hum / The years among, / Deceives the Butterfly; / Still in her Eye / The Violets lie / Mouldered this many May.”
21. ‘Daniel’ by Bernie Taupin
Again, song lyrics can also serve as poems in some instances. These lyrics, which Bernie Taupin wrote for his longtime collaborator Elton John, exemplify that fact.
Taupin and John have both given interviews indicating the original set of lyrics for “Daniel” features an additional verse that didn’t end up in the final recording of the song to ensure its length would be more radio-friendly. In their full form, the lyrics to “Daniel” describe a younger brother mourning the metaphorical loss of an older brother who has returned from serving in Vietnam a changed and scarred young man.
In interviews, Taupin has also stated that the lyrics reference Spain to suggest that the older brother is fleeing his home, unable to adjust to life after the war. The lyrics may not describe a literal death of a brother, but they nevertheless channel that sense of loss when a sibling is no longer part of one’s life.
“Daniel, my brother, you are older than me. / Do you still feel the pain of the scars that won't heal? / Your eyes have died, but you see more than I. / Daniel you're a star in the face of the sky.”
Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of an Infant
Losing a child of any age is unspeakably painful. That said, the loss of an infant feels perhaps more senseless than any other death.
No poem can fully help someone rationalize why a child died before they even had the chance to begin their journey in this world. Sympathy poems like the following can only serve to remind those coping with this terrible loss that others have managed to rediscover meaning in life after enduring a similar tragedy:
22. ‘A Child of Mine’ by Edgar Guest
This classic poem about the loss of a child describes children as gifts from a higher power who lends them to their parents for what may be a brief time. This is a sympathy poem to consider sharing with religious parents after the passing of an infant, as its primary message is that children are of God, and when they pass, they return to their true homes.
“He'll bring his charms to gladden you, / And should his stay be brief. / You'll have his lovely memories, / As solace for your grief. / I cannot promise he will stay, / Since all from earth return. But there are lessons taught down there, / I want this child to learn.”
23. ‘A Mother's Lament for the Loss of her Only Son’ by Robert Burns
Sympathy poems about the loss of an infant tend to be less hopeful than other types of sympathy poems. It can be difficult for even the most talented of wordsmiths to express optimism or faith when addressing such a devastating loss.
Consider this Robert Burns poem. It doesn’t shy away from describing the immense pain a mother might feel after a son’s passing. Still, it also suggests that there may at least come a day when she can rest with her lost son in a happier place.
“Death, oft I've feared thy fatal blow. / Now, fond, I bare my breast; / O, do thou kindly lay me low / With him I love, at rest!”
24. ‘Garden of Stone’ by Michael Kaner
An important point to keep in mind when choosing a sympathy poem to share with someone mourning any loss is that a sympathy poem doesn’t always need to focus on positive or uplifting feelings. Sometimes, mourners appreciate knowing that others understand they are coping with the type of pain they may not easily or quickly move on from.
“Garden of Stone” by Michael Kaner is a simple but powerful poem that doesn’t drape itself in false messages of hope. That’s not to say the poem suggests finding peace is impossible after an infant’s death—it merely approaches the feelings parents have after a young child’s passing with genuine honesty.
“Another tear falls / In the garden of stone. / Another day passes / And they’re all alone. / The world gets older / But he’s still two. / And we dream of things, / He’ll never do.”
Deepest Sympathy Poems for the Loss of a Coworker
Coworkers are not just professional peers. They can also be true friends. Instead of dismissing the loss of a friend’s or loved one’s coworker as being less painful than any of the other losses on this list, acknowledge that you understand your friend or family member may be struggling with genuine pain through sympathy poems like the following:
25. ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ by Walt Whitman
Anyone with an interest in American poetry likely knows the “captain” of this poem’s title is Abraham Lincoln. However, because the poem never explicitly states this, it could also serve as a poem offering sympathy to someone mourning the passing of a mentor who helped them thrive in their career.
“O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells; / Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills, / For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding, / For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;”
26. ‘Death’ by Joe Brainard
The death of a coworker is unique. After the death of a close loved one, we may allow our pain and sorrow to define our experience. After the death of a coworker, with whom we might have only had a professional relationship, we can take the opportunity to reflect on feelings about death that many share but few speak about.
Someone mourning the loss of a coworker might also be grappling with concerns regarding their own mortality. Let them know you understand their experience with this unconventional sympathy poem.
“Death is a funny thing. Most people are afraid of it, and yet / they don't even know what it is. / Perhaps we can clear this up. / What is death? / Death is it. That's it. Finished. "Finito." Over and out. No more. / Death is many different things to many different people. I think it is safe to say, however, that most people don't like it. / Why? / Because they are afraid of it.”
Express Sympathy Through Poetry
Ultimately, the main point to take from this list is that you don’t need to struggle if you want to offer sympathy or compassion to someone mourning a loss. If you find yourself unable to come up with the perfect words, you’re not alone.
The words of a poet may say what you have difficulty saying on your own. Just remember, the sentiment is what matters most. Find yourself and your experiences through these poems above.